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JOURNALISM: Golf Course Review [Download .doc version]

Course Review: FireRock GC, by Jeffrey Reed

Special to SCOREGolf

Golf-mad London, Ont. waited a decade for a second upscale public club. Forest City National GC opened in 1993 to numerous accolades. Opened in mid-July, FireRock GC, a pitching wedge west of London in Komoka, is already drawing rave reviews for its delivery of beauty and brawn.

Architect Thomas McBroom, with a mulligan from Mother Nature, has designed a masterpiece over 240 acres where a sand-and-gravel operation once stood. Father and son team Nick and Walter Spivak, who also own the nearby Oaks G&CC, pumped $10 million into this restoration project. The result: McBroom’s art piece which locals rank in the same category as destinations like Rocky Crest and Angus Glen.

FireRock’s 11,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse, to provide a spectacular view of the Oxbow River Valley, will open in 2005. Its practice areas didn’t open until August, and the immaturity of the greens saw inconsistent speed throughout the course. No worries: if McBroom builds it, they will come. Oaks members have playing privileges, but there has been no short supply of visitors forking out $75 for the opportunity to test drive this seductive layout.

Measuring from 5,672 to 7,098 yards, this par-72 track is best described by its creator, who labels it, "Explosive by nature and stunning by design." No argument here. FireRock boasts nearly 100 acres of two-metre tall prairie and Savannah grasses that dominate the course with environmentally-protected wildflowers, herbs and shrubs. It’s Monet meets McBroom – a painting come alive, framed by natural grasses and trees, captivating land forms and ragged handmade bunkers, flowing over pastureland and across the valley.

While FireRock’s fairways offer a generous number of safe landing areas, they can seduce you into choosing poor shot selections, thanks to a myriad of elevation changes. Once the large undulating greens mature, they will be dangerously quick. Add to the mix a cornucopia of strategically placed water hazards and bunkers, and you have the stuff of which legends are made.

Two holes have dominated post-round discussions. The 228-yard par-3 third hole is cut through a canyon of old gravel spoils. An errant tee shot, slightly downhill to a bunkerless raised green sloping back to front, will forever rest in peace. Nasty fescue hills and primary rough as coarse as cabbage make for a challenging up and down. The hole’s handle is, "A short but unforgettable journey to Ireland," but it’s more like a trip to hell.

The 18th hole at FireRock is stunningly beautiful yet incredibly tough. Looking down into the valley from the tee, golfers are faced with a 443-yard par-4 finishing hole. Hit long off the tee, and in the tight fairway, and you have a chance to get home in two over the Oxbow River. However, the smart play is to lay up before pitching onto a fast green with false front and front left bunker, and surrounded by mounds.

FireRock is both beauty and beast, but don’t expect it to soften as it matures. No matter what your score, you’ll bring home memories of each hole.

FireRock GC
Komoka, Ont.

Guest Fees:
$75 plus tax, includes cart


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